Bill Would Require Insurers to Update Provider Directories

After reports of inaccurate provider directories, a California state senator and three advocacy groups are hoping to require insurers to keep their doctor lists up to date.

State Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) proposed a bill late last month that would require health plans to update their lists weekly and post them to their website, specifying whether in-network doctors are accepting new patients and what languages the providers speak.

“In a world where we compel people to purchase health insurance, we must empower consumers to make accurate and informed decisions about the plans and policies they are choosing,” Hernandez said in a release.

A California Health Report investigation last June found that provider directories were highly inaccurate. More than half of the primary-care doctors listed in directories given to low-income patients in three counties in Northern, Central and Southern California were not accepting new patients or could not be reached by telephone, reporters found.

A state legislative committee ordered an audit in August of provider directories that are given to people in California’s low-income health program, after reports of major inaccuracies. The state expects to complete the audit by this spring.

Hernandez’s proposal, SB 137, is backed by Health Access California, the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network and the Consumers Union, part of the nonprofit Consumer Reports.

“We don’t allow other products to be sold with an inaccurate listing of ingredients — we can’t have consumers spending significant dollars on premiums for plans with inaccurate listings of their providers,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California.

In November, the state Department of Managed Health Care released a report saying that two large insurers violated state law by overstating the number of their in-network physicians. More than 25 percent of the doctors listed in Covered California directories offered by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California were not accepting patients or were no longer at the location listed in the directory.

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